Seaplanes as a Disaster Response Tool? Absolutely!

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Kenmore Air Beaver On Lake Washington During the October 27, 2013 ESRP Exercise

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my Regional Manager position with AOPA is meeting aviators who are passionate about flying, but also about using general aviation for their community’s wider benefit.  One such group that I’ve recently learned about is the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, whose mission is to “promote and coordinate effective and useful additional General Aviation volunteer participation in emergency relief efforts, especially following disasters.”

In the Northwest Mountain region that I cover for AOPA, earthquakes are a significant potential natural disaster, as evidenced by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake in Seattle.  That quake injured 400 and resulted in signficant damage to highway and aviation infrastructure, including severe damage to the air traffic control tower at Seattle Tacoma International Airport (KSEA), and major airfield damage at Boeing Field/King County International (KBFI, where a large portion of the airport’s main runway was rendered unusable for weeks.

Recognizing the threat that earthquakes pose in this part of the country, a dedicated group of regional seaplane pilots that are part of EVAC have created an Emergency Seaplane Response Plan (ESRP), which aims to coordinate the response of trained seaplane pilots to a natural disaster such as an earthquake, which could render land-based emergency access such as roads and airports unusable.

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Disaster “victim” being unloaded from a Kenmore Air Otter During the ESRP Exercise

On October 27th, a group of dedicated and engaged Northwest seaplane pilots, coordinated by Sky Terry (what a great name!), EVAC’s Northwest Seaplane Regional Coordinator, converged on Lake Washington northeast of downtown Seattle for a full scale exercise of the ESRP to practice just such a scenario.  In this exercise, GA seaplane pilots actually transported casualties and supplies via seaplanes in a simulated “mass casualty incident” following a devasting earthquake in the Puget Sound.

While we tend to think that we will never be the victim of a horrible disaster or emergency, isn’t it comforting to know that our fellow GA pilots are ready to leap into action to help us in a time of need?  Unfortunately, many in non-aviation circles never know about programs like ESRP or EVAC or volunteers like Sky Terry until they’re needed.  In your community, please consider volunteering your time and aircraft, and be sure you share the story of those who do with a broader audience.

We know all the good GA does in our communities- let’s make sure everyone else does too.

 

 

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